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‘Sudden Death’ (R)

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
December 22, 1995

Jean-Claude Van Damme is known for sending unctuously sweet letters to movie critics who almost universally pan him. It's his way of saying, "I blew it, I'm no good, hope you like my next movie, which incidentally opens on ..."

After "Sudden Death" opens this weekend, I anticipate the muscle-bound Belgian actor's going to be licking a lot of envelopes. In this movie, an action vehicle transparently derived from movies such as "Die Hard" and the Steven Seagal flicks, he's as underwhelming as usual.

In the shameless scenario, fire marshal Van Damme, on duty in the Pittsburgh Civic Arena during the Stanley Cup Finals, realizes that the usual group of elite terrorists, led by coldblooded Powers Boothe, is about to hold the entire arena for ransom. If the U.S. government doesn't pay them billions of dollars, the stadium will explode by game's end.

Van Damme races against time, trying to thwart Boothe and defuse all the bombs. But in the hands of director Peter ("Timecop") Hyams, these are just banal action-movie chores. For all his kick-boxing talent, Van Damme does little in the way of keeking butt. But he does spend a little time on the ice, playing goalie. Why? It's a long story—and you'd hate me for wasting your time.

Rated R. Contains violence and script-writing stupidity.

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